A plea to get involved by Thomas Birmingham

Dear KHS students,

Admit it: when you read the headline of this article, you probably let out a long, exasperated internal groan. Not this again. And no, I have not been paid to write this article by the KHS counseling department. I just truly feel that the only way for anyone to actually enjoy their high school experience is by throwing themselves into it with everything they have. By, well, getting involved. Here’s why:

From kindergarten through eighth grade, I attended St. Peter’s Catholic School. The entire student body of this quaint, sheltered environment was about 100 students smaller than just one grade here at KHS. Needless to say, there were not a lot of opportunities to ‘get involved,’ at St. Peter’s, especially considering there were less than ten clubs. So when I came to KHS as an unassuming freshman, I was completely unprepared for the enormity of opportunity that exists within its halls. With over 1,800 students, 25 sports teams and clubs dedicated to bees, lumberjacks and the act of consuming meat, I found myself being bombarded with the sheer scope of what I could do throughout my time here.

Just like you, I sat through all the assemblies that year that always began with ‘get involved,’ that two-word mantra, and there were times I rolled my eyes along with everyone else. But a part of me, the part that was frustrated having grown up in such a limited environment, really took that message to heart. I got involved. I did everything I could to make myself feel like a part of this school. I couldn’t be happier I did.

First came the Pioneer Pride Marching Band, welcoming me into a world of set position, Hail Kirkwood and horn swings. Then came Kirkwood Tennis and German club, in which I formed many fast friends. But the real reason I stand by this message so wholeheartedly, why I promote it so enthusiastically and why I follow it so religiously is because of one place. Most call it SJ, or South Journalism. I call it home.

On the surface, everyone knows that this is how ‘getting involved’ works. You sign up for something, and then sometimes you get lucky and absolutely love it. We get it, you’re probably thinking. That’s what has happened for me since joining The Kirkwood Call. I didn’t sign up for any concrete reason, but now I can’t imagine life without it. The reason I’m writing this article, and the reason I’m asking you to follow this advice, is because of what happened after.

Getting involved has two layers: joining an activity and doing an activity. Too many people fall into the trap of the former. Students join activities and then just sort of float, not really going beyond the label of what they’re involved with, be it for resume building or to appease strict parents, I encourage everyone reading this to think about if they are currently doing this in an activity, and if they are, do everything you can to switch to the latter. Do the activity. Spend hours on it. Love it. Over the course of three years with TKC, I’ve learned getting involved doesn’t stop once your name goes on the sign-up sheet. It’s just the beginning.

After a year on TKC staff, I became in-depth editor as an extension of the work I’d already been doing over the course of that year. Because of my new position, I became motivated to improve as much as I could, and so I had the opportunity to travel to Dallas for a journalism conference. Because of what I learned at this conference, I became a better writer and reporter, and my work improved drastically, as I began to cover topics that related to real problems affecting our community.

It was because I got involved and joined TKC that I had the opportunity to apply for the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference, and it was because I got involved within TKC that I was accepted.

The 2018 Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Scholars. All photos courtesy of the Freedom Forum Institute.

By now, you’re probably starting to tire of my seemingly pointless internal monologue. Don’t worry, I’m almost done. First I have to tell you about Free Spirit, because if this program doesn’t convince you to get involved, nothing will.

Free Spirit was a five-day conference in Washington, D.C. that brought in one student from every state for an intensive program focusing on all things journalism. I had the opportunity to meet Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, senior White House staffers and heroes of the Civil Rights movement. I got to network with journalists at The New York Times and The Boston Globe, some of whom I’m still in contact with today. Most importantly, I met people who have become my absolute closest friends from all over the country, people whom I know I will stay connected with until the day I die. In short, it was the best five days of my life.

Free spirit scholars direct questions at prominent journalist Chuck Todd during a behind the scenes tour of Meet the Press.

I’m telling you this because every activity has an opportunity like Free Spirit. Whether it’s athletics, science or politics, there is always something out there, in every group, that has the potential to become transformative. The biggest takeaway I have to offer you from Free Spirit is incredible experiences like this one are not as far off as you might think. You just have to be willing to devote yourself to your activity, your passion, and to chase it as hard as you can.

I leave you with this. Listen to your administrators and counselors. Get involved with something that makes you happy, and then get involved some more. It might just change your life.

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.